Elder Scrolls vs Notch’s Scrolls?

By Alec Meer on August 5th, 2011 at 3:57 pm.

Alleges Minecraft-maker Notch on Twitter: “Just got a letter from Bethesda’s lawyers. They claim “Scrolls” infringes on their trademark and everyone will confuse it with Skyrim.

No way/what/how/why/whatwhatwhat? What? Hopefully this is just crossed wires, an overzealous lawyer acting alone, a weird joke or othewise not actually happening. We’ve asked Bethesda for a statement. Let’s wait for more information before we decide we know what’s going on: if it is as it appears, good grief. If it isn’t, phew. More as we have it, anyway.

Update more on the matter from Notch, plus a photograph of the legal notice (in Swedish, but I’ll take Notch’s word for it that it’s what he says it is). Seems to be real, then. Sadface. WORLD, YOU ARE SO VERY CRUEL.

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268 Comments »

  1. Paperfeed says:

    That’s pretty pathetic… Hope they back off or that it’s actually a joke.

    Edit: I mean really, this is the kind of crap that’s wrong with the world. You’ve got all this patent trolling, certain companies getting years of monopoly on really simple software solutions such as “slide your finger across the screen to unlock”, the big hats suing everything that ever so slightly resembles anything (Scrolls in this case) and just companies that exist solely off of creating patents/trademarks/what have you and waiting till somebody infringes. Don’t even get me started on how incredibly ridiculous software patents are from the get go.

    • PunisherPlummer says:

      i agree, that is exactly what is wrong with the technology industry. goddamn ambiguous patent. Can you imagine trying to start a phone company yourself? Impossible.

    • bglamb says:

      They should differentiate by calling the newer Scrolls ‘The Newer Scrolls’ and the older Scrolls ‘The Older Scrolls’, or something.

    • briktal says:

      Internet opinion on these things depends almost entirely on the internet opinion of the two companies. I think “good indie company” wins every matchup, with Valve probably winning everything except vs good indie company.

    • WHS says:

      Oops, posted this at the end of the wrong thread.

  2. Edawan says:

    The new Edge ?

    • Anton says:

      Dear Notch,

      Please change your game’s name from “Scrolls” to “Edge”.

      Best Regards,
      Bethesda

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      The Scroll Edge: Origins: A Starcraft MMO

    • Zogtee says:

      The OTHER Scrolls (TM)

      or

      These Are Not The Scrolls You Are Looking For (TM)

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      No, not the new Edge.

      Firstly, Zenimax holds a US trademark on “The Elder Scrolls” for “computer game programs” (serial no. 74568763*), and 6 other trademarks on the name in other areas. They hold a UK trademark for “computer game programs” on “The Elder Scrolls” (no. E2840098). And, unlike the Langdell case, there is no reason to suspect that these were dishonestly registered. (They probably also hold trademarks on the name in Sweden, but I don’t know where to look to find out).

      Secondly, Zenimax is very clearly and obviously using their trademark for the Elder Scrolls series of games, and have been doing so continuously since The Elder Scrolls: Arena was published in 1994. So again, unlike the Langdell case, this trademark is quite definitely in continuous, active use.

      So please, stop with the useless and uninformed comparisons with the Edge affair. Argue about this issue based on actual facts and reasonable opinions, not based on how much you like or dislike Mojang or Bethesda, or on vapid comparisons to other events involving trademark disputes.

      There. My inner AIM is satisfied.

      *You can find it on http://www.uspto.gov/ which unfortunately is so badly designed that you cannot link to a specific page for a trademark.

    • undu says:

      But they haven’t trademarked “Scrolls” which is why it looks stupid.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      No, they haven’t trademarked “Scrolls”, or it’d be an obvious case of trademark infringement. But since both are fantasy-themed computer games, Bethesda has a reasonable basis to argue that it’s likely to cause consumer confusion. And that is the key issue in this kind of trademark dispute.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      If Scrolls were something that a consumer could mistake for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim then I think they’d have a case. As it is, it sounds like Bethesda hired a new lawyer or something and he’s bored.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      That’s a very loose definition of “reasonable”.

      1. They don’t have a trademark on Scrolls – this is important, because it’s not like Windows.
      2. Scrolls is a normal English word.

      Put those two key facts together, and any possible case evaporates. No competent judge is going to give Bethesda anything, unless there were evidence of a deliberate attempt to confuse.

      It sounds like Markus will probably do everything right: tell his lawyer to send a “go fuck yourselves” letter to their lawyers, send Todd Howard a friendly “WTF dude???” message, and leave it there.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Bear in mind that Mojang (that is, Notch & co) themselves applied for a trademark on “Scrolls”. Zenimax’s actions appear to be in response to this. I don’t know whether Mojang’s application has yet been granted, nor the applicable Swedish law—but in the US part of the trademark application process involves publishing the details of the application to allow for other trademark holders to oppose the application. I suppose that Zenimax’s objections here are related to a similar opposition procedure under Swedish law.

      Dumbed down summary: Mojang is claiming ownership* over the computer game name “Scrolls”. Zenimax is objecting to this, because then that would mean that Mojang has a possible claim on Zenimax’s own ownership* of the computer game name “The Elder Scrolls”.

      *not actually, because trademarks do not grant ownership.

    • ArcaneSaint says:

      Ah yes, so you’re saying that this is a pre-emptive measure from Bethesda to avoid being sued by Mojang for using the word “Scrolls” when Bethesda releases a new “the Elder Scrolls”-game, IF that’s the case I find it completely understandable.*

      *I’m actually being sincere, not sarcastic.

    • Berzee says:

      That news about Mojang applying for trademark I find more interesting than the rest of this comments thread combined (except the “have you got the scrolls” joke of course). Thanks :D

    • WHS says:

      “Scrolls” as the name of a computer game about magic scrolls is pretty obviously a descriptive term and not exactly an ideal trademark (for Mojang) or grounds for a trademark dispute (by Bethesda). This is silly. Also, someone at Bethesda should recognize that attacking Indie Hero Notch does them far more harm than any consumer confusion ever would, and rein in their lawyers.

    • ArcaneSaint says:

      That might be true, but isn’t it US law that when you don’t defend your copyright by prosecuting possible infringements you lose it? So if Bethesda doesn’t sue Notch for “stealing” a word from their copyright they agree to forfeit their copyright, or something like that, I don’t speak Legalese.

  3. Ergates_Antius says:

    The Langdell is dead. Long live the Langdell.

  4. Skusey says:

    Is the the shortest RPS post ever?

    On a more relevant, and with less potential to be mistaken as snarky note, this is daft.

  5. Anarki says:

    Check some sources, get some confirmation, then come back and post. Wouldn’t be the first time in recent weeks that RPS has posted a joke as news….

    Edit: Also, remember E3 when Notch and Todd from Bethesda had a long sit down chat? Maybe it would have been brought up then?

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      In big companies sometimes one part will do one thing and a different part another so maybe Todd just didn’t know.

      Seriously though, you’re right this needs to be confirmed before posting.

    • skinlo says:

      This. I saw the Twitter thing and guessed this would be on RPS. Of course its your site, but wouldn’t getting confirmed facts from both sides be better than just going off one Tweet.

    • Alec Meer says:

      FYI the story was only posted after we got this: http://bit.ly/qhhp0w

      I still don’t know what to think, but if it’s real it’s just too huge/mad to overlook.

      Awaiting reply from Bethesda, but trouble is they’re all out at Quakecon so we’re going to be waiting until Monday, most likely.

    • Rich says:

      Particularly true of a big company’s legal department. He may well have had a nice chat with one guy in the organisation with his head screwed on, but that doesn’t mean the same company’s legal team won’t have a go.

    • Anarki says:

      Notch has just made another tweet about it so I guess he’s not joking. Could well be a case of how companies have to actively defend their trademarks in order to still be allowed to use it. They might not take any action, just have to send a letter…

    • MikoSquiz says:

      Record companies used to almost routinely have A&R trying to hunt a given person down to sign them, while legal tried to hunt them down to sue them for using uncleared samples. One department of a large corporation seldom knows what another is up to.

    • Zogtee says:

      Being swedish, I can tell you that the letter at least looks legit. Lots of legal talk, no spellung errors, etc.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      “no spellung errors, etc.”
      Ha! Is that intentional, or just Muphry’s Law in action?

  6. diebroken says:

    Something ending with ‘Craft’… ScrollCraft?

    Hmm…

    /waiting for letter from Activision/Blizzard

  7. WaveOfMutilation says:

    Is this because notch stole their 11.11.11 release date thunder?

  8. Tulse says:

    I’d now like to see the working title changed to ‘World of Scroll’s Edge’.

  9. PanzerVaughn says:

    I can understand their concern, I get Minecraft and warcraft and the practise of witchcraft confused all the time.

    Can you imagine showing up to your coven meeting with your own workbench and 200pounds of lumber? Oh man that was awkward.

    • Soon says:

      .

    • PanzerVaughn says:

      “You’re the Grey Notch! You’re wanted for…for… everything!”

    • Sentient Waffle says:

      Stop, you’re killing me!

    • celticfang says:

      Hey now…I take my diamond sword all the time and nobody cares…

      Personally…I think that Bethesda are being a bit TOO keen in protecting their trademark. Could any reasonable person confuse Skyrim with Scrolls? I’m going off of…about three weeks of legal lessons, but I’m pretty sure that there shouldn’t be any reasonable doubt as to who made what, especially if the publishers’ logos are highly visible.

      Oh, and Notch ought to do Call of Scrolls: Modern Edge too while I remember it.

  10. Daiv says:

    Perhaps Notch should change the name to “The Rim of the Sky”.

  11. TheApologist says:

    Have you got the scrolls?

    No, I always walk like this.

    • Berzee says:

      I wish at this moment that I was a webcomic author JUST so I could steal this and make it a webcomic.

    • TheApologist says:

      It’s an old Morecambe and Wise gag I think. I looked for a vid to link to, but youtube doesn’t seem to have it.

    • Bobsy says:

      Philistines. It’s Up Pompeii.

    • TheApologist says:

      Gah! I can only apologise for my ignorance.

    • phlebas says:

      Surely the canonical response is ‘No, I’m a Goblin’?

    • pepper says:

      I’m quite sure Canonical wouldnt have much to say about that, unless Notch calls it The Scroll of Ubuntu Elders Rim a Sky.

  12. Kaira- says:

    What would be this “Bethesta”-company that Notch speaks off?

    Also, what was said above – I’d really waited for more information. Makes you look pretty stupid if this turns out to be a joke.

  13. p4warrior says:

    If you’re this far down in the comments, you’ve had to scroll to get here. You will be contacted by Bethesda’s legal team, at which point you may pay the fine, go to jail, or resist arrest.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      ALL HANDS TO SUING STATIONS!

    • Rich says:

      Prepare to repel lawyers!

    • Durkonkell says:

      THEN PAY WITH YOUR BLOOD!!!!

      Also: Well this is silly, if true. Bethesda’s franchise is called “The Elder Scrolls”. Does that mean that they’re sending cease and desists out for all games using ‘The’ as well? Has ANYONE anywhere confused Mojang Specifications’ Scrolls with Bethesda Softworks’ The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim? Eh? Anyone?

    • Heliocentric says:

      I have 15 1920*1080 monitors mounted sideways in a 15 tall, 1 wide configuration Hung on the sloped ceiling of my staircase.

      I’m currently scrolling* my stairlift to the top to click forums.

      *oh snap

    • Koozer says:

      I never made the connection between the two before, but from now on whenver I see mention of Skyrim I’ll think of Scrolls. Great work lawyers!

  14. Parthon says:

    I like how the giant developer thinks so little of their customers in that they could confuse a massive expansive RPG with an indie collectable card game.

    • Phydaux says:

      By the giant developer I assume you mean Mojang? They’ve outsold Bethesda on the PC by millions. I’m surprised Bethesda would risk going up against such a rich and liquid company in this time of economic hardship.

    • Kaira- says:

      I have hard time believing that Mojang with 3 million copies of Minecraft has outsold Bethesda on PC across… wait, let me count, Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, Redguard, Battlespire, six games and their expansions.

    • JackShandy says:

      Not to mention that Minecraft’s selling at around ten bucks a pop, meaning that a million sales for Notch is barely a drop compared to a million sales for Skyrim.

    • Phydaux says:

      Number of Bethesda games that have sold over a million copies on PC: 0
      Bethesda games sell very well on consoles, not on PC I’m afraid. (At least I can’t find any statistics that show that a Bethesda game has sold more than a million units on PC)

      How much money have Bethesda put into game development? How much do they make in profit? I bet Mojang have much higher profit margins than Bethesda per unit, and Minecraft sells well on PC where Bethesda games tend not to.

      I was being slightly facetious in my original post, Bethesda would clearly have a lot of money to throw behind a lawyer. But you have to remember Mojang aren’t some struggling indie company. They are a multi-million Euro company. There are many games companies that aren’t even turning a profit at the moment. It’s not David verses Goliath, it’s Goliath verses Goliath. To Bethesda, Mojang are competition. Mojang do have the potential to drown out Bethesda with talk of Scrolls on PC (not that I personally think it would affect Bethesda sales).

    • Jimbo says:

      Umm, no. There is no comparison between the size of -and resources available to- Bethesda (Zenimax) vs. Mojang. Minecraft is a very successful indie game; Oblivion, Fallout 3 and New Vegas were massively successful mainsteam titles, each selling multi-million units.

  15. wodin says:

    Well they’ve just had their second injunction denied that was aimed at Interplay developing Falloutonline….and from what I’ve read it makes me happy they keep getting slapped down….

    Motion Hearing held on 8/4/2011 [114] and [115] MOTIONS for Preliminary Injunction filed by Bethesda Softworks LLC – Argued – “DENIED” for reasons stated on the record by Chief Judge Deborah K. Chasanow. (Court Reporter: Sharon O’Neill) (td, Deputy Clerk)

    Now this…this is the first games company I’ve ever taken a strong dislike too…sod em..they ruined the fallout games in my opinion and I have no interest in Skyrim (sounds like to S&M manouever)…
    Now this…nobheads…

    • mejoff says:

      If Bethesda is the first gaming company you’ve ever taken a dislike to, you must not have been looking at the industry for very long, or in any great detail.

      I’ll give you any odds it’s a joke anyway, As I mention below, Todd Howard and Notch have a bit of a history of this sort of jape. Todd probably emailed Notch from the bar at QuakeCon at about 4 in the morning with this.

    • skinlo says:

      Really? They are still quite high up the list for me. Fallout 3 was great imo (haven’t played NV), and Skyrim looks great.

    • wodin says:

      Fallout 3 was an abomination to the Fallout universe set up with Fallout 1 and 2…NV was better and followed the canon of the universe far more…but in comparison to the first two games they are pants…3D FPS style graphics doesn’t equate to a better game..Black Isle where going in the right direction with Van Buren the true Fallout 3 that never was…

      As for other gaming companies getting on my nerves to be honest I’ve never really taken to much notice of their shenanigens…If Fallout 1 and 2 weren’t up there as my all time favourite games I probably would take no notice of Bethesda….but they are and Bethesda shat out F3 and NV…so I hate em…oh and Valve may be next as Red orchestra 2 looks like it’s been dumbed down to keep the mainstream crowd happy….if so I hate them aswell…

      All this hate maybe because I hit 40 last Wednesday….who knows…fuckin hate birthdays anyway….and jobsworths I hate them…and Chavs…and Bethesda…and….

    • Wulf says:

      Fallout 3 was okayish in a dumb LOLOLOLOL sort of way. It wasn’t a particularly intelligent game. New Vegas was much better. You’re doing yourself a disservice by not trying New Vegas.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I would be more interested in Skyrim if it was an S&M maneuver.

      Also, New Vegas kicks the pants off of Fallout 3. The world is more believable as a world, the storytelling is better, companions are more interesting, and there is just so much more stuff to do. People with believable dialog are everywhere.

      I’m not saying Fallout 3 was bad, because it was a pretty fun game, but it’s not even in the same class as New Vegas.

  16. Amaraen says:

    Doesn’t everyone call it “Skyrim” anyway?

    No-one has come to me and said “HV U SEEN DA ELDER SCRALLS V STUFF”…

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Pretty much this. The only time I’ve seen Morrowind & Oblivion go by their full titles was yesterday when I was looking at the QuakeCon sale stuff on Steam & even then I had to double take before I realised what they actually were.

    • Symitri says:

      Pretty much this, I haven’t referred or seen an Elder Scrolls game been referred to in it’s full name since Morrowind except in gaming news stories. Most gamers just say Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim because they’re easier to say.

    • p4warrior says:

      Pretty much this?

    • westyfield says:

      I sometimes call them the TES games, because then you can call Skyrim TESV (tez’v), Oblivion TESIV (teziv), and Morrowind TESIII (tezzy).

    • Donjonson says:

      prettayy prettaaay prett-aay …. much

    • Joof says:

      I don’t know about that. Before Skyrim was named, I always called it, “The next Elderscrolls”, and when comparing the different games in the series, I’ll say “Morrowind was my favorite Elderscrolls.”

    • Berzee says:

      “prettayy prettaaay prett-aay …. much”

      this

    • drewski says:

      I can guarantee if you tried calling your new scifi shooter “Killdeath: Combat Evolved”, Microsoft would be down your pipes faster than the News of the World on a murder victim, even though everyone calls it “Halo”.

      You can’t selectively protect trademarks based on how they’re actually used. The law may be an ass, but it’s an expensive one to be on the wrong side of.

    • Berzee says:

      So, you aren’t talking about Scrolls right now drewski, right? You’re talking about some case where somebody took an entire lengthy game title and changed one word and kept the rest of the title verbatim?

      Because I’d have thought the scrolls example would be more like

      “Halo: Combat Evolved” versus “Combat”

      OH NOES MY TRADEMARK. CHANGE IT TO A WORD FOR COMBAT THAT HAS NEVER BEEN USED IN A GAME TITLE.

      Edit: Apologies, none of my allcaps nonsense is really directed at you, more at the silliness of the situation. It’s just you are picking Subtly More Reasonable Than The Situation sort of examples, which makes the situation look more reasonable than it is. o_^

    • drewski says:

      Unfortunately this isn’t really a situation with direct parallels, because the Elder Scrolls series is just about the only one in gaming where the pre-title is really the name of the franchise, but each game has a different generally known title.

      Perhaps a better analogy is someone releasing a platformer called “Mario” and not expecting a Nintendo banhammer.

    • Berzee says:

      Still not a satisfactory parallel because “Mario” is generally how those games are KNOWN. Like, if you say you were playing Mario, people know what series you were playing.

      If you said a year ago that you were playing Scrolls, people would be like “Is that a new game?”

      Maybe this is a better parallel: you’ve got
      “Age of Empires”
      “Age of Empires: Rise of Rome”
      “Age of Empires: The Age of Kings”
      “Age of Mythology”
      etc…

      You also have
      “Age of Wonders” which is much more similar to the AoE games than Scrolls is to TES. If you said you were playing “Age”…nobody would really know which series or some other series you were talking about (Age of Sail?). Age is simply not that kind of word, unless a huge game comes out that burns it into our minds like Mario is stuck there.

      And yet somehow these games and companies managed to survive together in the world. Maybe they had lawsuits, I didn’t pay attention to things like that back then, but nevertheless here they are. =)

      You’re right though, I can’t think of such a long running series that has a rarely-used but always-present pretitle containing a common word. But as there has not yet been a precedent, hopefully this will set a precedent of anti-stupidity.

      Edit: I just realized the best parallel would be if all of the many games with “Rage” in the title got together to send legal threats to the makers of “Rage”. But as we don’t know how Scrolls will go, we don’t know how that would go either. Except I think we have an idea how it *should* go =)

  17. Blackseraph says:

    That’s grand.

    If they are serious I won’t be buying skyrim, just to point out that they are morons.

    Seriously this is bit hard to believe, negative pr from something this moronic would be huge. They must understand that.

    • db1331 says:

      Bullshit. You’ll still buy Skyrim.

    • Blackseraph says:

      I am very good at sticking to my principles, besides I didn’t like Oblivion at all, so I doubt I would miss much.

    • Caerphoto says:

      Seriously this is bit hard to believe, negative pr from something this moronic would be huge. They must understand that.

      They’re lawyers, of course they don’t understand PR.

    • Wulf says:

      I won’t be buying Skyrim for entirely another reason. :|

      In New Vegas I could talk my way out of killing, and where I couldn’t do that I could use beanbag rounds and melee weaponry, because I like not killing. And dragons are a very romantic prospect to me, so I refuse to kill them, it just doesn’t seem right. So long as the game forces the player to kill dragons, I won’t be interested.

      When a mod comes along that allows other story paths, that’ll change, but Bethesda really need to learn something from Obsidian when it comes to the power of player choice.

  18. Jams O'Donnell says:

    What strikes me as particularly odd is that Notch is a pretty vocal fan of TES, and has stated many times how excited he is about Skryim.

    That’s not a very nice way to treat someone who’s been giving your product free publicity.

  19. Dawngreeter says:

    This is good for Mojang. It’ll get Scrolls hella publicity. I can’t see any possible way this doesn’t benefit both the game and the developer, even if idiocy strikes and they are forced to change the name.

  20. mejoff says:

    Notch and Todd Howard have had a running joke ‘feud’ over 11.11.11, I reckon this is just a bit of an escalation of that.

  21. Pop says:

    Woah, better hold of on my Poke Monsters project till the dust settles on this one…

  22. Teddy Leach says:

    But will Scrolls have INFINITE DRAGONS?

  23. G915 says:

    Wow, that’s pathetic, I thought Notch was on good terms with…well, everyone in the gaming industry. I have no idea why would they do this.

  24. PanzerVaughn says:

    Maybe this is the only the AAA studio’s can think of getting in on some of that sweet sweet indie money…

  25. Soon says:

    I assume every Bethesda legal document starts with: “Stop! You violated the law!”

    • karry says:

      And then you can either pay the fine or fight all the cops in the city, cutting your way to the Thieves Guild to deposit your bribe.

    • Burning Man says:

      “VeeYAHA!”

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Stop Right There Copyright Scum!

  26. woodsey says:

    Sounds like a joke to me.

  27. Cydonos says:

    This will never hold up in court, even if Notch represents himself, dressed in tattered rags.

  28. razgon says:

    As far as I understand,a company that does not actively protect its trademarks and copyrights, risks losing them – thus, the need to take action, no matter if they actually succeed or not.
    So, take issue with the lawgivers, your local governor if you are in the US, patent offices and the like.

    Edit: yeah, according to Wiki, in the us you are required to actively protect your copyrights. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_law_of_the_United_States

    That’s probably all this is.

    • Perrin says:

      Good point, last thing Bethesda would want is to lose that trademark over the world “Scrolls” that they don’t have.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Just to clarify, you aren’t required to actively protect your copyrights in the U.S., just trademarks. Since the Elder Scrolls name is a trademark, I can see why they might, maybe, kinda need to send out this letter, but it’s a stretch.

    • razgon says:

      According to the US database, Elder Scrolls is definitely copyrighted – and according to Wiki (yeah, I know), you are required to actively protect copyrights

    • Perrin says:

      “Elder Scrolls” is protected not “Scrolls”. Like I’m sure they don’t have to go after anyone using the world Elder for anything else either.

      If someone was using some derivative like The Old Scrolls to cause deliberate confusion it would make sense. That’s not the case here.

      While I’m sure this will all be reversed and it’s an over zealous legal department I think giving Bethesda the out of saying they just had no other choice but to threaten legal action is ludicrous.

    • razgon says:

      hmm, I don’t know where my post went.

      Anyways, I said that I found the alternative even more ludicrous actually :-D

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      I think they’d have more a case if someone used Elder something – “Elder books” “Elder wands”, “Elder Stories” sound like the might have something to do with “Elder Scrolls”.

      A scroll is just a scroll though, the fantasy world is littered with them.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      “According to the US database, Elder Scrolls is definitely copyrighted – and according to Wiki (yeah, I know), you are required to actively protect copyrights”

      Trust me, you don’t have to actively protect copyrights or risk losing them. I took a very comprehensive copyright law class about a year ago, wikipedia is mistaken. ;)

      They’re good for as long as you live, plus many decades after that, even if you never once try to stop someone who’s infringing.

      And the Elder Scrolls actually is a trademark. Note the TM after it. From copyright.gov: “Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases.” The content of the game is copyrighted, not the name.

    • Calabi says:

      If they can copyright the word scrolls then we are all fucked. I mean literally every word is open for copyright.

    • Sleepymatt says:

      I plan to copyright the word “copyright” and then due the arse off every company ever. Eat that, corporate lawyers!!

    • Sleepymatt says:

      double post, bah!

    • drewski says:

      @ ResonanceCascade – you’re sort of right and wrong. No, you don’t have to defend copyright to keep it, but if you allow IP infringements to go unchallenged, it becomes much, much harder to later go after an infringer who is willfully and blatantly disregarding your IP rights.

      There’s no legal requirement that you defend your trademarks to keep them, but maintaining an effective trademark is much more difficult if you do not.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      I definitely oversimplified for the sake of making my broader point, but can I at least get some points for knowing the difference between a trademark and copyright, Mr. Lawyerpants? :)

    • drewski says:

      Absolutely!

  29. Vinraith says:

    Dear Bethesda,

    I like your games. I’d like to be able to continue buying your games in something remotely resembling good conscience. Please stop being stupid dicks.

    Thank you for your time,

    Vin

    • Gnoupi says:

      Dear Bethesda, I discovered you when I installed Morrowind on my computer, years ago.

      Where have you gone since? Long time no see.

    • Burning Man says:

      Dear Bethesda,

      When I think of EA, Activision and Ubisoft, I feel ill and need to go lie down. I feel moderately happy about your company’s apparent lack of insufferable greed and I think Todd Howard is a really cool guy. Please don’t be dicks. Please.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Dear Vinraith

      Thankyou for your letter. I hope you understand that there are people in our little company who make games, love games and gamers. We just want to make the best game in the world especially for you. But these people have families and need money to keep doing what they do best. The money comes from people who are good at making money and only giving it out if they get a bigger juicy cheque down the road. These people are dicks. And they hire lawyers, who are paid to act like dicks on their behalf.

      Hope you understand,

      Hugs

      Beth

      Dear Gnoupi,

      We’re still here, doing our best. Sometimes people will only pay us to do what we do best if they get an “artistic influence” in the game. Sorry about that, but we do our best to tell them that just because they have money doesn’t make them good at designing games. We hope you do appreciate that every day we have meetings and try to sneak some of the good stuff in. Some even makes it into the final game… some!

      We promise we will try to do better, but it is hard to bite the hand which keeps food on your babies high chair table.

      All the best,

      Beth

      Dear Burning Man,

      There really are some good guys over at EA and Ubisoft. Once in a while they manage to get heard too! Remember a game without a publisher won’t get a triple A budget and so won’t be of triple A quality. And publishers exist only to make money. But if they didn’t, then games would take ten steps backwards, so I guess they are a necessary evil. Just do your best to make choices that make you happy without paying to much attention to who published it or made it and I hope you hit a few home runs,

      Best wishes

      Beth

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Yes… That was deliberate

    • Vinraith says:

      But these people have families and need money to keep doing what they do best. The money comes from people who are good at making money and only giving it out if they get a bigger juicy cheque down the road. These people are dicks. And they hire lawyers, who are paid to act like dicks on their behalf.

      Dear Beth,

      Thanks so much for your reply.

      In this instance, these people who act like dicks are costing you money, I highly suggest you reign them the fuck in. You do not own the word “scroll,” no one does. Attacking an indie studio for the use of a commonly available word is not acceptable business practice, it makes you look profoundly mean-spirited, not to mention incredibly stupid. Since the only way I can deny money to the dicks in your organization is to deny money to all of you, the dicks in your organization are currently endangering the meal on all of your tables.

      Yours in Christ,

      Vin

    • drewski says:

      Dear Vinraith

      Please gain a vague understanding of the concept of intellectual property law before going off on rants about trademarks.

      Sincerely

      The Lawyers of the Internet

  30. Dana says:

    Im pretty sure Elder Scrolls is a trademark, not Scrolls. You cant trademark “normal words”.

    Is this new game really called “Scrolls” ?

    • skinlo says:

      Yes.

    • PopeJamal says:

      So if that were true, because “Scrolls” is a “normal” word, Notch wouldn’t be able to trademark the name either.

      I don’t see what the big fuss is and I actually think they have a good point.

      As far as I know, the way it works is that you can use the same/similar name for something as long as a “reasonable” person wouldn’t confuse the two things. So for example the McDonalds roofing company vs the McDonalds that sells “food”.

      So let’s see if there are any similarities between the two games:

      -Elder Scrolls – Goblins and guys with swords
      -Scrolls – Guys with swords and goblins

      Nope. Not similar at all…

    • Berzee says:

      “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”
      “Scrolls”

      This would be like

      “Ewan McDonald’s Group: The Food Company”
      “Mick’s Diner”

    • thegooseking says:

      You can trademark “normal words” within a given category; the word is still open for everyone to use in any other category. For example, Microsoft has a trademark on ‘Windows’ but they can’t sue glaziers because those glaziers aren’t selling software called ‘Windows’; they’re selling windows. Called ‘windows’.

      However, this is exactly like Nintendo suing people for making a game including the word ‘Bros.’ in the title just because they own the trademark on “Super Mario Bros.”. Which Nintendo has never done because Nintendo is not stupid.

    • drewski says:

      It’s more like Nintendo telling a developer not to call their sidescrolling shooter “Super Shooter Bros” because they’ve trademarked “Super Mario Bros”.

    • Berzee says:

      No,
      it’s more like Nintendo telling someone not to call their game

      Super.

      Or not to call their game

      Brothers.

      Your Super Shooter Bros. example would apply if Mojang’s new game was called

      The Elder Biscuits: Arena

      (first and last non-article word being the same, middle word changed).

    • drewski says:

      Or, as I used in response to a similar complaint earlier, “Mario”.

      You can make the analogy that the game franchise is Super Mario (Bros), with World, Land, Paper, 64 etc. being the specific game names. And I can guarantee Nintendo would defend “Mario” to the death against anything even vaguely gaming related.

      “Scrolls” is still quite a bit of an extended analogy to that, because it’s not as central to the franchise identity as Mario is to, well, Mario games, nor as unique an identifier, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a valid and well known mark in the gaming industry for “fantasy game by Bethesda”. Again, direct analogies are difficult, but there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a legal question to be argued here. Which doesn’t mean Zenimax are right or would win a hypothetical trademark case, but it sort of does mean they have to attempt to defend it if they want to maintain it’s full value.

    • thegooseking says:

      drewski, I don’t remember Nintendo suing over the 1991 Mega Drive game Mario Lemieux Hockey. That’s because it was obviously a different Mario (even if fans sometimes called him Super Mario), and Sega had a licence to use his name and likeness.

  31. Chris Livingston says:

    This is common for Bethesda. First a threatening letter. Followed by a boasting letter, then an admiring letter, then a joking letter. They’re just trying to raise notch’s disposition.

    • 4026 says:

      Man, what’s wrong with a simple charm spell?

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      Notch then sends a letter back, writing (yes, writing) in a young british woman’s accent, “Not now, not later, not evah”.

    • sinister agent says:

      Goddamn it, why is everyone today making me spill my tea? Is there some kind of contest?

    • Burning Man says:

      Even by RPS standards, that was pretty fucking awesome.

    • ducdeeze says:

      I created an account to give you props.

      +2 props.

  32. magnus says:

    I’ll just make a noise about Capitalism being EVIL and how downloading a torrent of Skyrim will really show Bethesda just how EVIL it is for daring to make a profit and how being tight-arsed enough to download a torrent is ‘giving it to the man’.

  33. elmuerte says:

    I’d contact Bethesda directly. It might be a slip up by the legal team they hired for this, those guys are usually quite aggressive.
    I recall a similar issue where an army of undead (i.e. lawyers) hired by Epic Game became a bit overactive and contacted pretty much every fan site concerning the stylized “Unreal” on their websites, or using the Unreal logo. That of course wasn’t the intention of Epic Games.
    Although Notch’s Scrolls isn’t a fan thingy for TES, this notice might still be the work of an overactive lawyer.

    • elmuerte says:

      ps, “Scrolls” is a dumb name for a game anyway. Pick something that will let your game show up in search result.

    • evilbobthebob says:

      In the UK, searching for Scrolls has Mojang’s Scrolls.com as the top result. The Elder Scrolls comes in a paltry 5th.

  34. soylentrobot says:

    we’re not retarded Bethesda, we can tell the difference between two games

  35. Ergates_Antius says:

    The only hope for Bethesda to emerge from this without looking like an enourmous bunch of arses is to retract, then pin it all on some scapegoat from the legal department, make a “he acted on his own without checking with us first” statement, then post a video of him being tarred and feathered on YouTube.

  36. Casimir Effect says:

    What’s the legality of changing the title to “Bethesda Eat Dick”?

    • drewski says:

      Probably about the same. Bethesda presumably have a trademark over “Bethesda” in relation to computer games, so they could get to at least this point (threatening letter) without concern.

  37. Stellar Duck says:

    Damn it! Now I’ve read the word scrolls so many times that it’s lost all meaning.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls scrolls…

  38. Antsy says:

    Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a lawyer for?

  39. Unaco says:

    Probably for the best. Scrolls is a f*cking terrible name.

    Also… Not many of us (if any of us) here are lawyers or work for Bethesda, so we don’t know/understand everything involved here. Is it the fact that Trademarks have to be ‘protected’ or they risk losing them? This could just be standard… something they don’t really want to do, but have to do, else they lose something or similar. Maybe in some territories TES games are not know primarily as their Subtitle (Morrowind, Oblivion, SkyRim) but are known mainly as ‘The Elder Scrolls X’, therefore there could be confusion? Maybe this is just made up, by Notch, for publicity? I assume the Lawyers don’t get an invite to QuakeCon, otherwise they’d be unlikely to have sent out the letter (just as it’s unlikely they’ll get back to RPS until Monday).

    Also, I’d reckon Notch could have seen this coming many, many, many months ago… like when he announced the name, and, no doubt, someone turned to him and said “When do you expect the letter from Beth?”. It is just a name, so should be easy for Notch to change it… although he probably should have done that months ago.

    • Blackseraph says:

      Yeah, let’s allow bigger companies to bully smaller ones with legal threats, I mean what’s the problem.

      Bethesda can’t win anything like this, so Notch should just let them sue to show public at large what sort of asshats bethesda apparently are.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      It’s not a question of whether or not Bethesda should defend their trademarks, it’s a question of whether or not this should involve going after something because it includes one of the words in their trademark. Bethesda don’t have a trademark on “Scrolls”.

      If someone made a game called “World” should then expect a letter from Blizzards lawyers?

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Yeah, trademark protection is understandable since they literally have to protect them to keep them (even Valve won’t let modders use their trademarks, just their copyrights. Hence why we have “Black Mesa” instead of “Half-Life Remake”). But going after someone for using one word seems overzealous and unnecessary.

    • Berzee says:

      Yes, that would be life the creators of the game “Life” going after Half-Life, or Valve going after Second Life, or Second Life going after The 10 Second Gospel.

    • drewski says:

      There are a lot of legal arguments that could be made – one that immediately springs to mind is that by calling your fantasy game “Scrolls”, you might confuse people into thinking it’s a spin off of the “well known” The Elder Scrolls series.

      I *am* a lawyer, although I don’t specialise in IP law, and I would say this is neither surprising nor unusual.

    • Berzee says:

      “I *am* a lawyer…and I would say this is neither surprising nor unusual.”

      I…see…

  40. Loopy says:

    I remember them. :)

  41. Waste says:

    Too late for a “Stop right there, criminal scum!” joke?

  42. sinister agent says:

    Hopefully he’ll reply with “if you’re going to sue me, then fuck off and sue me. I could do with a new car anyway.”

    • drewski says:

      IP fights invariably comes down to who has the most money. Very few IP cases are ever won or lost – they’re generally settled when they become too expensive for one party.

      Notch won’t “win” an IP case against Bethesda. Not because he’s wrong, but because he can’t afford it. Minecraft is popular, but it’s nothing compared to the financial resources of Zenimax.

      Not that this will get anywhere near that point.

  43. bagitomacho says:

    I hope it ain’t serious. I really hope it’s just some person off the net who’s really good at pretending to be a lawyer from Bethesda.

    Lawyer: “Minecraft” you say? You can’t use that name because Blizzard owns “Craft” and.. er… Minesweeper owns “Mine!” Maybe we can call your game something like Diggingblocks.

  44. razgon says:

    heh, I just noticed, the first hit I get on google from typing in Scrolls is Notch’s Scrolls, and Bethesda is coming in at a 5th place.

    • Walsh says:

      Ding ding ding, that can be argued as dilution of Bethesda’s trademark.

    • Rinox says:

      But if I type “Elder Scrolls” I get Skyrim and not Scrolls…

      In short, Bethesda are being a bunch of lame fucks.

  45. Ham Solo says:

    Dear Bethesda.
    I know you created “Fallout 3″, but “3″ is already a Trademark of idware’s “Quake 3 Arena”, Please rename your game, people might confuse it and I will sue you.

    This is *almost* too pathetic to joke about.

  46. ResonanceCascade says:

    Reply flizzle.

  47. Drake Sigar says:

    I thought about scrolling down to read the comments but feared they’d sue me too.

  48. jonfitt says:

    The legal document is 15 pages, however only the first page contains any information. The other 14 are just Bethesda asking Notch if he’s seen any Mud Crabs.

  49. Dionysus says:

    Was the threatening legal document sent in scroll form?

  50. man-eater chimp says:

    The Dead Sea Scrolls have a fight to pick with Bethesda methinks…